2019/20 Middle School Class Size Investigated

How is TSD doing on class size at the Middle School level? 

A previous blog discussed the class size in TSD elementary schools and High Schools.  Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for secondary classes. (you can read the latest blog on elementary class size here). This blog mainly addresses the seats available in the classroom(likely around 25-35) and the stated threshold capacity.  Some classes are more intensive, and take more time outside of the classroom, than other classes.  For instance a PE class is less likely than an English class to add a significant amount of time to a teacher with added students.  With not much outside TSD available, the contract between TEA and TSD is used as the baseline for class size in this discussion.

Article 37.E.5 of the TEA contracts states as follows:

“Secondary Class Size and Targeted Average.
 The employee workload in secondary classrooms (except band, choir, orchestra, and PE) shall average no more than 27 students per period, with a class size of 30 for impact. These calculations shall exclude student assistants or peer tutors. If an individual class exceeds the impact level (30), overload compensation will apply. If the overall targeted average of 27 is exceeded, overload compensation will apply. Employees will only receive overload compensation for one of the two provisions, whichever provides the greater compensation.”

So what does that mean?   A teacher having classes averaging more than 27 students throughout the day, or a single class over 30 students, were agreed by TEA and TSD as the threshold for impact.  From this one can conclude that 27 is the desired maximum in a class.  From a budget perspective, this means that any class over 30 students automatically qualifies for “overload compensation”, and any teacher who has an average of more than 27 students throughout the day qualifies for “overload compensation”.  

What classes at BMS and TMS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both middle schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).

The following chart was compiled from the data showing the size of English classes at both middle schools:

BMS and TMS both have several English classes that would be considered overcrowded using the 27 students per class as the line where a class is “overloaded”.  Most classes have an overall average below the 27 threshold with the exception of BMS 7th grade English and BMS 8th grade Honors English.  

6th Grade English.  BMS has 30% of their classes over 27 students and 10% at, or over, 30, where TMS has 11% over 27, and no class at 30 or over. The overall average 6th grade English class size at BMS sits at 25.9, and at TMS it is 24.8.   

7th Grade English.  BMS has more 7th grade students than it has room for.  BMS has 88% over 27 and 50% at or over 30 students.  The average class size for 7th grade English at BMS is 29.3, which is above the 27 threshold.  TMS has 22% of its 7th grade English classes over 27, and none at or over 30, with an average class size of 23.2.  

TMS does not have any 8th grade Honors English classes over 27, with an average class size of 24.  In contrast,  every 8th grade Honors English class at BMS is over 27, and 67% have 30 or more students, with an average of 30 students per class.   The average for the classes at BMS indicates there are more 8th grade Honors English students than there is room for at BMS  The 8th grade English classes at BMS only have 17% at 30 with an average of 21.5.  It might be possible to have added an Honors class and taken away a regular English class to alleviate this, but there are a few things that would have to align to make that a workable possibility.

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, the more advanced math classes are overloaded.  For instance, at both BMS and TMS the 6th Compressed Math(BMS only), 7th grade Compressed Math and the Integrated Math are significantly overloaded with averages all over 27. Almost every level of math class have a number of classes with more than 27 students.

*Although, I could not locate the data for TMS 6th grade Compressed Math, it appears that course is not offered at TMS.  TMS 6th Grade Math have 67% of the classes with more than 27 students, and 17% with 30 or more students and an overall average of 28 students.  BMS has nearly 30% of the 6th grade math classes with 30 or more students.  

The Integrated Math classes at BMS all have more than 30 students, with an average of 32.5 students.  TMS is slightly less crowded with an average of 28.5.  Both schools have more students taking Integrated Math than they have space.

The same approach for Social Studies classes at both middle schools is as follows:

With Social Studies classes, the data seems to follow the English data for both BMS and TMS.  Meaning, the courses for each grade are overloaded if the English classes for that grade are overloaded.  

For example, 20% at BMS and 44% at TMS of the 6th Grade Social Studies(SS) classes are over the 27 students threshold. 

7th Grade SS is greatly overcrowded at BMS as were the 7th Grade English classes, with 75% of SS classes over 27 students and 63% at 30 or more with an average class size of 29.1.  This would suggest BMS has more 7th grade students than they have space if several of the core classes are overloaded.  7th Grade SS at TMS are also overcrowded with 50% over 27 students and 13% with 30 or more students and an average class size of 27.1.

BMS also has several 8th grade SS classes over the 27 threshold (44%) and 33% at 30 or more students with an average of 25.6 students.

The same approach for Science classes at both high schools is follows:

The science classes also follow trends from the data above. 

BMS has 67% of 6th Grade Science classes over 27 and 33% at 30 or above with an average of 28.6.  There are more 6th grade students than they have science class space.  TMS is a little better, but still has 56% of the 6th grade science classes over 27 with an average of 25.7.

As the previous core classes also indicated there are more 7th grade students at BMS than there are space in the core classes.  At BMS 44% of the 7th grade science classes have more than 27 students and 33% have 30 or more students with an average of 26.8.  Again TMS is a little better with 25% of 7th Grade Science classes over 27 and an average of 26.6 students.  Both are approaching an average number of students that would make it impossible to keep class sizes below the threshold without adding more teachers and cost. 

BMS is also has 44% of 8th Grade Science classes above 27 students and 11% at 30 or above with an average of 24.9.  TMS is much better with no classes over 27 students in 8th Grade Science and an average of 23.6.

From the data above it is clear there are more students in each grade at BMS than spots available in most of the core classes.  Similarly, TMS has several core classes that are overcrowded but to a lesser degree than BMS.

In looking at other classes taken by students, there is a clear overcrowding of these classes also.  This further supports there are more students at the middle schools than they have space.

This conclusion is highlighted when looking at the Health classes:

creen-Shot-2019-12-17-at-5.10.07-PM

BMS has 88% of its 6th Grade Health classes over 27 students, and 63% at 30 or more students, with an average of 29.1 students per class.  BMS also has 50% of its 7th Grade Health classes over 27 and 25% at 30 or more, with an average of 26.9.  BMS has 38% of 8th Grade Health classes over 27 students with and average of 26.4.

It is always going to be that there are some hours during the day where a course may be more crowded than another, however, when the average number of students is more than the threshold, or very close, it is more likely to have several classes that are over that threshold.  The charts above are a good example of this happening in our schools.  BMS clearly has more students than it has spaces, unless they hire more teachers at a cost or overcrowd the classes and over work the teachers, giving them a little extra compensation.

The variables that effect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls. 

The number of incoming residents students is fairly predictable, and TSD can control the number of transfer students approved.  It would seem logical for the decision on transfer students to be made in the summer(after most “move ins” have occurred), when enrollment is more predictable and TSD knows how many resident students will be in the classes.  Our understanding is that this is not the current practice.  However TSD is in the process of changing the transfer practice.  I have written a couple blogs on the process up to this point.  You can read them here and here

Since TSD does not keep track of the which grades the non-resident students are in, it is difficult to say exactly how much of an effect this has had on the class size.  For example, BMS has 23 non-resident students and TMS has 27 non-residents, these non-resident students could be split evenly or all could be in one grade. Without the data collected and stored, it is impossible to know which is accurate.  This would make a significant difference in the class sizes if they are all in the same grade.

In my opinion, letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers at a cost.  Transfer students can be helpful to the budget if placed in classes that have available spaces.  TSD has not made adequate effort to place non-resident students where we need space until the last couple years (and, it appears, only at the elementary level).  There still needs to be improvement at the elementary level, as well as the secondary level.  I am hopeful they are going to implement some changes so that we see less overcrowding and non-resident students are used to fill in gaps, not add to the overcrowding in our already overcrowded classes.  

Conclusion.

The TEA contract allows for classes to be overloaded as long as the teachers are compensated, which may not be a bad option at the MS and/or HS level.  However, similar to elementary classes, when class sizes increase in a high school class, this can create class management difficulties and increase the work load of the teacher.  Also, with the move to a more inclusive environment(SpED), class management will continue to deteriorate if class sizes do not go down.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  It would appear that either a misappropriation of classes/teachers has occurred or a miscalculation on the number of students attending the middle schools. 

The miscalculation is evident with each grade at BMS and TMS.  

The raw data from our records report can be found on our documents page, here.

As always Scott and I welcome comments and questions.  Please email us at Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com